Best Campervan of 2020
Best campervan of 2020: my head almost instantly began spinning when I tried to envision what my selection would be. Why the anxiety? Well, to begin with, there’s the challenge of distilling a huge amount of information into a digestible piece of writing for you, the reader. Campervan of the year needs to be succinct and to the point. It needs to communicate in absolutes, with everything on the market considered and cross-referenced. Then, once hundreds of spreadsheets have been drafted and some complex math calculations completed, possibly then I could determine the ultimate ride—the perfect campervan, deserving of the title “best campervan of 2020.”
But the more I dwelled on the concept of “the one,” the more I realized that it’s an impossible task. Sure, I write up a lot of feature articles about campervans, and I have stepped foot inside more unique vehicles than I can remember. But is one person qualified to make so bold a statement as “best campervan of 2020”? Everyone has different needs, and therefore, the best campervans of 2020 need to include selections that work for a variety of drivers. Instead of naming one vehicle, I’m breaking this article down into four categories:
Chassis | Budget | Luxury | 4X4
I’ll do my best to highlight a range of standout vehicles. If you are outraged at my selections, the comments section is at the bottom of the article.
*Please note that all pricing included in this article is approximate and subject to change. Check with individual builders for the most current rates.
Some Things to Consider While You Read
Purchasing a campervan or designing and building your own is no small task. And considering the fact that many contracted builds or pre-built vans can set you back as much as a small house, it’s a good idea to think critically about what you need and want from your van. Here are a few things to consider when trying to find the best campervan.
Amenities– Are you the type of person who needs hot water, a conventional toilet, and a shower on a daily basis? Or are you more comfortable roughing it? In a campervan, adding amenities will cut into your storage space, increase your build cost, and create systems that require maintenance. But amenities will also add to your comfort, making road trips and adventures more pleasurable.
Dirt or Pavement?– I lived in a vintage RV and took it to a lot of places that pushed its capabilities. What I learned is that most people will get by just fine with a 2-wheel-drive van, but for some, AWD or 4WD will provide that extra bit of confidence and peace of mind on dirt and snow. With 4WD and AWD, there will be a sacrifice to fuel economy and there will likely be higher maintenance costs. Options that are 2WD are less expensive, and in most cases, capable enough, especially with more aggressive tires.
Storage Space– This is one of the main limiting factors in a campervan but it’s really important to consider given that you are likely using your vehicle to enable awesome adventures and activities. What will you be bringing along on the road? Ski gear? Bikes? Camping equipment? Other, larger items? Make sure you have room for the basics like clothing and food, then consider how much other gear you’ll want.
Climate Control – Keeping a campervan comfortable is not rocket science, but it takes some planning to do it right. This starts with insulation and ends with heaters, fans, and air conditioning. Think about which climates and what time of year you will be using your campervan to make sure that it can keep you comfortable during your travels.
Warranty – If you are buying an upfitted campervan, you should look at the warranty and ongoing support. If something breaks, is there a service center close to where you live or where you’ll be traveling? If a major component of your van simply stops working, will it be replaced for free or will you need to pay out of pocket?
Best Campervan Chassis of 2020
We’re starting with the best campervan chassis of 2020, an important consideration for the DIY crowd as well as those looking to contract an upfitter for a custom build. While there are quite a few vans to choose from when you include minivans and compact cargo vans, for the sake of this article, I only considered base vehicles that are offered in multiple lengths and roof heights. This leaves us with a handful of options in the North American market including:
- Nissan NV
- Dodge Promaster
- Ford Transit
- Mercedes Benz Sprinter
When deciding on the best campervan chassis of 2020, I put emphasis on value, capability, and options.
Honorable Mentions – Both the Nissan NV and Dodge Promaster get honorable mentions for a few reasons. To begin with, the base prices of both are about $4,000 less expensive than the Transit or Sprinter. The Nissan NV is the only vehicle of the four that can be optioned with a V8 engine, and the Dodge Promaster has the widest interior clearance (better sleeping space for taller folks). Unfortunately, both are only offered in 2WD configurations, and the Promaster has the worst ground clearance of all four vehicles.
Editor’s Pick for Best Campervan Chassis of 2020: Ford Transit
Photo: Courtesy Campervan HQ
It’s a tight race between the Ford Transit and the Mercedes Sprinter. Both can be optioned with gas or diesel engines; both are offered in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive from the factory, and both can be had with rear duallys (for toting around heavy loads). While the Sprinter edges out the Transit in terms of gas mileage, the Transit beats the Sprinter in terms of the lifetime cost of ownership.
Taking into consideration all of the factory options for length, height, engine, RWD/AWD, serviceability, and lifetime cost of ownership, the Ford Transit cargo van is my pick for best campervan chassis of 2020.
Best Budget Campervan of 2020
For the category of best budget campervans of 2020, I’m only considering new campervan builds from professional upfitters. Sure, there are bargains to be found if you buy used, work with an individual builder (not a conversion company), or perform your own conversion. But for the sake of this comparison, we’re talking about new vehicles that are upfitted by established, professional companies. I’ve narrowed down the field further by only including contenders that offer sleeping quarters, a functional galley, standing room, and an off-grid electrical solution. In my opinion, these are the bare minimum features that most van owners will need.
Honorable Mentions – I challenge you to find a less expensive campervan than the Cascade Campers Ram ProMaster City conversion which adds up to $32,480 all in (yes, including a brand-new 2021 ProMaster City cargo van). Cascade was one of our featured upfitters earlier this year (article here). While their builds are not glamorous, and the ProMaster City doesn’t offer standing room, it’s awesome to see a builder who can do a simple build for $8,000 which includes a convertible bed, galley with refrigerator, vent fan, wall panels, storage, solar, and insulation.
Also considered in the category of budget campervans of 2020 in no particular order are:
Wayfarer Vans: Basic build + van (136-inch, high-roof ProMaster) starting at $51,795. This build includes wool insulation, wall panels, shelving, a galley, bed, integrated cargo management system, boot box, and privacy paneling.
Glamper Vans: Basic build + van (136-inch, high-roof ProMaster) starting at $67,000. This build includes a bed, refrigerator, galley, AC electric, two vent fans, insulation, wall panels, and a toilet.
Offgrid Adventure Vans: Basic build + van (159-inch, high-roof ProMaster) starting at $74,790. This build includes a Murphy bed w/memory foam mattress, insulation, solar, vent fans, AC electric, galley w/butcher block countertop, refrigerator, 26-gallon fresh water tank, removable table, and overhead storage.
Editor’s Pick for Best Budget Campervan of 2020: Dave & Matt Vans
And finally, my top choice for the best budget campervan of 2020 category is Dave & Matt Vans. While they don’t offer the cheapest campervan conversion out there, in my opinion, Dave & Matt vans offer a big value with Ram ProMaster 136-inch, high-roof builds starting as low as $53,612. But what does a Dave & Matt build include?
- Spray-foam insulation for walls, ceiling, and floors, with an R-value of 6 to 12
- Waterproof flooring
- Blue-stain beetle kill tongue and groove wood paneling
- 2 front swivel seats
- 2 AM sliding windows with screens
- Removable bed platform with a (short) queen-sized memory foam mattress
- Galley w/sink, electric water pump, 7-gallon freshwater tank, Webasto Cruise 85 refrigerator
- Solar w/200 amp-hour AGM house battery and isolator
While the above-mentioned features include a lot, I wanted to see how much more I could squeeze in using the customization platform on the Dave & Matt website while keeping the build below $60,000. Here are the additional accessories that I added: boot box/storage bench, overhead cabinet for kitchenette, overhead cabinet above bed, composting toilet w/ storage bench, MaxxAir vent fan, additional 160-watt solar panel, all-terrain wheels + tires upgrade. Even with these additional accessories, the total build-price came in at $60,549, a huge value executed in a high-quality finish and backed up with many 5-star customer reviews. If you are considering purchasing a budget campervan, do yourself a favor and check out Dave & Matt Vans.
Best Luxury Campervan of 2020
If you’re prepared to spend $200,000 on a recreational vehicle, then you might be curious to hear my pick for best luxury campervan of 2020. It will be defined by comfort: amenities, features, and finishes, and while this might include vehicles with 4WD and off-highway equipment, those features won’t be the main consideration determining my selection. Also, within this category, I’ll only be considering pre-built or standard models, not custom builds. Why no customs? With the skills and abilities of campervan upfitters, there would simply be too many options, finishes, and accessories to take into consideration while offering you a coherent argument. So without further ado, here are the best luxury campervans of 2020.
Honorable Mention – The Midwest Automotive Designs Daycruiser 144 is decked-out in high-gloss wood and leather upholstery. Heat and air conditioning are ducted to vents throughout the coach which makes for a comfortable environment despite hot or cold temperatures outside. Additionally, standard equipment like the HD television, Blu-ray player, porcelain toilet, and stainless steel refrigerator are unexpected features that aren’t even offered as options in most campervan builds. Unfortunately, the galley seems to be an afterthought in this particular vehicle.
An additional honorable mention goes to the Hymer Vision Venture. This space-age vision of what a Sprinter could be debuted in 2019 and wowed crowds at auto shows around the world. But unfortunately, aside from the show vehicle and computer-generated images scattered across the internet, this luxurious campervan has not yet (and may never) come to market.
Editor’s Pick for Best Luxury Campervan of 2020: Winnebago BOLDT
I’m not going to lie, I struggled a bit with this one. In the category of best luxury campervan, there are an interesting variety of offerings. Almost everything that has real leather and wood finishes is lacking something fundamental – like a fully functional galley or a complete bathroom. It was a tough decision, but in the end, my pick for the best luxury campervan of 2020 goes to the Winnebago BOLDT, and here’s why.
The BOLDT strikes a balance of luxury and functionality. It has everything that you need plus quite a few extras. The finishes are pleasing to the eye, with a healthy dose of faux(?) wood and Ultraleather. At 22-feet, 11-inches long, it’s large, but it sleeps three people and has a fully enclosed wet bath, a full galley with microwave, an induction cooktop, a refrigerator, and a sink. Multiple seating options abound, including two swivel seats (in the cockpit), a convertible dinette, and bench seating with a pedestal table that converts into multiple sleeping configurations in the back of the vehicle.
There are additional stand-out features, beginning with the Advanced Energy System electrical infrastructure and lithium-based house batteries offering 12,800 watt-hours of power. Using the Volta smartphone app with Bluetooth connectivity, you can remotely view electrical system information like battery run time, temperature, charging status, and power usage. The vehicle’s MBUX touchscreen infotainment system has GPS navigation, a WiFi hotspot, voice control, and a rear-facing backup camera. The cabin has a 24-inch LED HDTV, a systems monitor panel, a JBL sound bar, a powered roof vent, USB charging points, LED lighting, cassette shades, and more.
For full vehicle specifications (there was a lot more that I didn’t have room to mention here), check out the Winnebago website.
Best 4X4 Campervan of 2020
Every time I catch myself using the term “off-road,” I cringe. I do this mostly because it’s easy to misuse this term. What people often mean when they say “off-road” is “off-highway.” Driving down a Forest Service dirt road? That’s not off-road driving, it’s off-highway driving, follow? This section will cover the best 4X4 campervans (not off-road campervans).
While the campervans we’ve already covered in this article have put an emphasis on comfort, luxury, and affordability, the best 4X4 campervan of 2020 is all about performance on the dirt. For this category, I’m only considering 4WD or AWD offerings. Additional “points” are awarded (in my head at least) for standard and optional accessories or features that enhance the driver’s ability to get way out there. And now that we’ve cleared all of that up, on to the vans.
Honorable Mention– If it wasn’t for the Sportsmobile Classic, the Vanworx Maxxtrax Crafter 4X4 would have likely been my Editor’s Pick. Starting with a MWB or LWB high-roof Crafter 4motion chassis, this campervan comes standard with a locking differential, heated swivel seats, lithium house batteries, window flares, diesel cooking/hot water/heating, and a three-year warranty. Popular add-ons include a Seikel lift kit and rock sliders, Black Rhino wheels with BFG tires, a Warn winch, Vanworx roof rack/ladder/full-sized spare mount, underbody armor, and grille/roof-mounted exterior lighting. The cost for the build and accessories (not including the base vehicle) as described above is approximately £95,000 ($129.000).
Editor’s Pick for Best 4X4 Campervan of 2020: Sportsmobile Classic 4×4
When it comes down to raw performance on the dirt, the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 is my top pick for multiple reasons. Starting with the relatively short 140-inch wheelbase and 16.5 inches of ground clearance, this van is incredibly capable. The standard 4×4 conversion offered by Sportsmobile includes:
- BFG AT 33-inch tires
- Atlas II transfer case
- Dynatrac Pro-Roc 60 front axle
- Dana 60 rear axle
- Fox shocks
- True horizontal drag link Spicer 1350 1-ton rated driveline components
- Your choice of open/limited-slip/locking differentials
- Front sway bar with quick disconnect system and custom shocks
- F550 rotors and beefed-up calipers
- And additional off-highway performance upgrades are available on top of what I just described.
This Ford campervan offers standing room thanks to its pop-top design but retains a lower center of gravity, perfect for more technical tracks with steep off-camber sections.
But the Classic 4X4 isn’t just made for wheelin’. The cabin of the Ford cutaway campervan comes outfitted with very comfortable living quarters including all of the standard features you would expect in a campervan. Four different layouts are offered depending on your preferences and all include a small galley (with refrigerator range and sink), bed, storage, dinette, and front swivel seats. The Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 ranges in price from $175,000 to $225,000 depending on options.
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